Monthly Archives: May 2014

Jennifer Jopson: Lessons From Travels Abroad

Ever thought about traveling abroad after high school? Sometimes it’s nice to get a new and fresh perspective on life. I love to hear from my readers and to share their successes. Jennifer is one of them. I follow Jennifer’s blog Turning the Tide partly because I traveled abroad in Ireland myself when I was a freshman in college and love reading her stories and checking out the beautiful scenic pictures. I also read it because it’s exciting  seeing high school and college students finding their passions and doing something with them.  So without further ado…

Lessons from Travels Abroad

Author’s note: Last week fellow Blogger Jered Blanchard asked me over email if I would like to do a guest blog for him about my experiences traveling overseas during my post-secondary education. I was happy to hear from him and said yes right away. I enjoy seeing what Jered’s up to on Live Declared. His college advice is very relevant and written in a cogent style. He always asks his readers to consider two sides to a situation and to contribute to the conversation. If I were in high school now reading his Blog, I am sure I would be more informed about decisions related to third-level education, such as test scores and my vision for the future. This is my first guest blog, and I’m honored that Jered asked me to write for him!

Jennifer's Travels

Feeling adventurous at Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge in North Antrim, Northern Ireland.

Why is overseas travel important during your college years? There are multiple answers. First, travel gives you the opportunity to experience the world with all your senses. While you initially take in an unfamiliar city or country with your eyes, the sounds, tastes, smells and the things you touch all contribute to a unique memory of the place. At the beginning, your senses are more acute until your body and mind have time to adjust. Travel is very tactile. Second, you get to go beyond the confines of the classroom and the textbook and apply your knowledge. For example, learning Chinese in lecture is restrictive because it is not always possible to get instant feedback on your language skills. If you travel there, on the other hand, you’re forced to use the language to communicate, and you get to take part culturally as well. Third, you learn a lot about yourself–your preferences, abilities, and beliefs. I decided to travel overseas because my parents instilled in me the desire to understand and appreciate new places. I wanted the chance to travel independently of them through my college experience, and so I chose to study abroad. Are you thinking about traveling overseas while you’re in college? The goal of this post is to give you ideas for your future travels.

Before I left for Ireland, I bought a Frommer’s guidebook and read it since I knew that I’d travel extensively around the country. I hoped to arrive there armed with useful knowledge. This is how I discovered the seaside towns of Dalkey and Skerries, as well as my favorite pub in Dublin, O’Neills. The book was well-written and organized, which made it easy to find the information I needed later. I used the tear-out map that came with it nearly every time I went out in Dublin, which helped me learn the streets. I also watched videos on YouTube related to typical cultural experiences in Ireland, and looked at Google Street View so I would know what to expect.
Over time I became better at asking people for help if I was lost. The great thing about Dublin is that nearly everyone is willing to give directions, and they’re usually right. It is much easier and less painful to ask instead of wandering around thinking you know which way to go. Just ask with a smile on your face and you’ll have more time to explore. Naturally, being in a friendly environment, it was not too difficult to strike up a conversation with the locals at the pubs or on the street. I talked to an Irishman about politics (he brought it up) and a bartender about the best places to find live music, but it wasn’t until my second to last night in Dublin that I had an intellectually stimulating conversation. The man from Belfast taught me to set my mobile aside and talk to people sitting by themselves–there’s craic (“having a good time “) everywhere, you just have to look for it.
Two other things I made sure to do were to take photographs and share them online, and tours. I loved capturing my experiences on camera and letting others see it as I did. I also did three-day coach tours from Dublin: one called the Wild Wicklow Tour where I saw Glendalough and surrounding areas, and the other two by Wild Rover Tours to Galway and Belfast/Giants Causeway. I highly recommend these tours, as the guides are very knowledgeable and make sure that you have a memorable experience.
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At Edinburgh Castle.

During the semester I traveled to Paris, France and Edinburgh, Scotland. What these trips have in common is that they were short getaways from college, and were also eye-opening experiences. When I went to Paris I had the mindset that the French are rude, arrogant people. It turns out that several people said ‘Bonjour’ to me, and I said ‘Merci’ a lot in two days! I realized the stereotype I placed on them was not fair: people are kind everywhere, and that the way we perceive others based on cultural norms create rifts in society. Enter a foreign country with an attitude of respect, as you are a guest, and be generous with others even if you do not understand them. My friend and I also had a few funny tourist moments, as she thought we actually needed more Metro tickets and we thought the Bastille was more than a simple monument. Don’t take yourself too seriously when you travel; it’s a lot more fun to laugh about things.

I traveled to Edinburgh and the Highlands for my program’s sponsored trip in March. My friends and I happened to meet at the airport, and so we made the journey together towards our hostels once we arrived. One thing I remember doing was taking in my surroundings and committing them to memory. Edinburgh isn’t a large city, but it is easy to get lost if you’re by yourself and it’s late at night. Particularly if you are female, it is important to stay in bright, public areas and travel with people you trust. Stay alert and know the area you are in. If you’re uncomfortable for any reason, retrace your steps and ask for help. I was lucky to travel with such a sensible group of girls. They insisted on walking with me to my hostel before they went off to theirs. I very much appreciated their company, especially as I would have passed the sign for the hostel if they hadn’t been there.
I’m grateful for travel opportunities I’ve had so far. While I’m not sure if I’ll be going abroad again any time soon, at least I can reminisce on my happy moments in Ireland, Paris and Edinburgh!
Thanks so much for reading. What are your thoughts about overseas travel after high school?
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Parker Mantell: Overcoming Self Doubt

As a Hoosier, I found this years Indiana University commencement speech pretty inspiring. Parker Mantell shares about overcoming setbacks and achieving great things in spite of his disability.

Enjoy.

Share your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you.

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How to get out of Admitting that you Dropped out of College

And the winner of this week’s “How to get out of admitting that you dropped out of college like a pro” competition is…

College is quite often a key step in the path to a successful career. Some of you will choose to go to college because it is the best way to get the career of your dreams. A lot of you will go because you don’t know what else to do. Even more of you will choose to go because of pride, pressure, obligation, and of course because only slack-jawed yokels don’t go to college.

That being said, I feel really bad for this girl.

Yes, Danielle Shea made some mistakes…

…like not telling her mom that she dropped out of college. And maybe she shouldn’t have pretended to be in college and continued taking her mom’s tuition money for her whole senior year. She also probably shouldn’t have dressed up and pretended that she was graduating at the commencement ceremony. Of course the multiple bomb threats to try and cancel the ceremony were also probably not the best idea. But what else could she have done!? She wasn’t in the bulletin and they weren’t going to call her name out as a graduate and all of her family was going to be there to see her and she didn’t know what else to do!  Police

Okay, so she made a lot of mistakes.

But isn’t it sad that people feel this kind of pressure to stay in school despite the fact that it probably isn’t the best fit for them. The idea that if you don’t get a degree you are a failure is crazy. This mentality causes people that shouldn’t go to college to go anyway and it often causes the people that should go to college to feel entitled.

College is a tool, a really important tool for a lot of people; but, a tool nonetheless. Your college degree doesn’t define you and it doesn’t entitle you to success.

Bottom line, Danielle Shea has demonstrated for us one heck of an option for how to get out of admitting that you dropped out of college… another option is to just do it. But hey, it’s your call.

Thoughts? Comment below.

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The PSAT: How to Get a Better Score

In my last post I shared a lot of information about the PSAT and why you need to take it seriously. Now I’m going to share just a little bit about how you can improve your score.

Did you know that each question on the PSAT is designed to be answered in less than a minute? In fact, the PSAT is a type of time management test.  You need to answer questions quickly and efficiently and doing that depends on your ability to quickly tell what the question is asking.

The test is logic based not content based. The questions are designed to trick you. They want to see if you can think and read critically.  I think the one of the best ways to show you what I mean is to show you some examples.

Here’s your first question:

How many different integers n will make the following statement true?

6 < 4n <10

a. 1

b. 2

c. 3

d. 4

e. 5

Know the answer?

Easy, right? We all know that n=2.

4×2 = 8 and of course 6 < 8 <10 is accurate.  So the answer is b right? Wrong! The correct answer is a. Reread what the question is actually asking. It didn’t ask which of those answers is the right answer. It basically asked how many right answers are there.  Very tricky.

Okay let’s do another one: (Remember you need to answer this in about 30 seconds.)

What is the product of 587,392 and 26,453?

a. 14,107,987,535

b. 14,880,123,640

c. 15,538,280,576

d. 15,942,223,113

e. 16,006,975,391

So what did you get in 30 seconds? I doubt you had time to work it all out with a pencil and scrap paper in that amount of time.

So what’s the trick? Look closely.

What is the product of 587,392 and 26,453?

Well, instead of doing this rather lengthy multiplication problem in its entirety just multiply the last digit in each of the numbers: 2 and 3.

2×3 = 6. So right off the bat you know that the answer has to end with a 6. The only one that does is c. Therefore c is the right answer.

Are you starting to see what type of skills they are measuring now? It’s all about critical thinking not content.

Last one:

Like all new animals, the zoo’s new surroundings baffled the panda bear during his first visit.

a. the zoo’s new surroundings baffled the panda bear

b. the new zoo surroundings baffling the panda bear

c. the panda bear was baffled by the zoo’s new surroundings

d. the panda bear, who found the zoo’s new surroundings baffling

e. the new surroundings in the zoo which baffles the panda bear

This one is a little less tricky, but takes a lot of time to read. Remember you only have about 30 seconds to answer and it will take at least that amount of time to read each of the answers and make a decision.

So what’s the trick here?

Like all new animals, the zoo’s new surroundings baffled the panda bear during his first visit.

Look at the subject before the underlined section: animals. The correct answer must start with the animal: the panda bear. You’ve just eliminated a, b, and e. Now only read c and d and choose the one that is the most clear and concise.  The answer is c.

Now that you have a better idea of how the test is formatted and how it really is designed to trick you, you will be more prepared going in.  Use the official PSAT/NMSQT study guide to get yourself ready.PSAT

Okay, that’s all I’ll share about the PSAT for a while. If you have any additional questions please contact me. I’d love to hear from you.

So how does the PSAT work?

If you read my previous post then you know my experience taking the PSAT and just in case you didn’t read it I’ll give you the short version: I was completely and totally ignorant. Unfortunately, my experience is probably more common than not.

If you’re like most people out there you probably think that the P in PSAT stands for practice.

And like most people you’d be wrong.

It stands for preliminary. The PSAT is so much more than a “practice” test. The test is actually called the PSAT/NMSQT or the Preliminary SAT National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Now you know why they just call it the PSAT.

Yes, as you probably already know the PSAT does provide you an opportunity to practice for the SAT. It allows you to get a feel for how these types of tests work and it allows you to see and review what areas you need to improve on before taking the SAT. Most people know all that, unfortunately that’s about all they know about the PSAT.

But you are different. You’re reading this and you’re taking responsibility for your education and your future.  So let me share with you what the PSAT is really all about.  Here goes.

What is the PSAT?

The PSAT is a standardized test put together by College Board, the same company that creates the SAT. As I stated earlier, it is a test designed to provide you with a chance to practice taking the SAT and to provide you with valuable feedback.

Length and Format

The PSAT is a lot like the SAT with a few small differences. It’s shorter than the SAT. The PSAT is 2 hours and 20 minutes whereas the SAT is a more daunting 3 hours and 45 minutes.

The PSAT is made up of three sections:

  1. Critical Reading – 2 Sections (25 minutes)
    1. Sentence completion
    2. Passage based reading
  2. Math – 2 Sections (25 minutes)
    1. Multiple choice
    2. Grid-ins or solving problems
  3. Writing – 1 Section (30 minutes)
    1. Identifying sentence errors
    2. Improving sentences
    3. Improving paragraphs

Logic

The PSAT is a logic based test. It is not content based. Learning how to take the test is extremely important. The test is set up to trick you. It’s important that you pay very close attention to wording and that you know exactly what the question is asking.  I’ll give some more tips on this in the future.

Registration

Unlike the SAT you cannot register for this test online. You need to register for the PSAT at your local high school. Register early to ensure that you get your spot. Most people only take the PSAT once but that isn’t necessarily the best idea. You can take the test 3 times, once per year until your junior year of high school. However, the only test that counts towards your entry into the National Merit Scholarship is your junior year test.

Cost

The cost for the PSAT for 2014 is $14.00. Some schools add additional costs in the form of administrative fees. If you are unable to afford taking the test you may be able to receive a fee waiver.

Benefits of the PSAT

Scholarships:

Here it is. I’m putting this one first, because I think it is the most important. College is expensive and you need to do everything you can to get your degree without taking on a life time of debt. Graduating college with tens of thousands of dollars in student loans can seriously impair your ability to win at life. It can effect when/if you start a family, where you live, what type of job you have, how much you have to work, etc. Don’t you think spending $14.00 a year and doing some studying and research on the PSAT in order to try and get some scholarship money is worth it.

NMSP image

Taking the PSAT your junior year of high school allows you to enter the competition for prestigious scholarships and to participate in recognition programs. Juniors who take the PSAT enter NMSC competitions. NMSC adds the scores of the critical reading, mathematics, and writing skills on the PSAT and uses that information as an initial screen of program entrants and to designate groups of students to be honored in the competitions.

               Designations include:
      • Commendable
      • Semi-Finalist
      • Finalist
      • Scholar

National Merit Scholars and Finalists often have a lot of full ride scholarship packages presented to them by multiple colleges and universities. Even Semi-Finalist may be able to get full ride scholarships presented to them by numerous universities. Scoring high on this test is important.

 Practice:

Of course the PSAT provides practice for taking the SAT later on. Taking it early allows you to receive feedback on your strengths and weaknesses so that you know what areas you need to work on in the future.

Comparison:

Taking the PSAT allows you to see how your performance compares with other students who are applying to college.

Spam…um, I mean College Information:

Each time you take the PSAT you have the option of filling out a student search box which will allow colleges (specifically colleges who pay the College Board to be included in this group) to start contacting you with information about their programs. Check the box if you like but beware, you will be spammed.

 

Hopefully now you know a little bit more about the PSAT and why you need to take it seriously. Next we’ll dive into how you can improve your score on the PSAT to try for National Merit Scholar status. I’d love to hear from you. If you have any insight you’d like to share, personal experience with the PSAT, or if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. Thanks for reading.

 

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The PSAT: A Cautionary Tale

Why You Need to Take the PSAT Seriously

Here I go. I’m about to dive into one of those “when I was your age” speeches.Test

As a side note I just turned 30 last month so I’m now officially old by most teenagers’ standards. Being old comes with its perks though, one of which is that I can now give both the “back in my day” and the “when I was your age” speeches. So at least I’ve got that going for me…

But like I was saying, back when I was a freshman in high school I remember my guidance counselor coming into my homeroom class to talk to us one day.  Now when the guidance counselor came to homeroom it almost always meant one of two things.  It either meant that we were going to be having a captivating discussion on self-esteem, self-respect, or bullying; or it meant that we were getting out of our scheduled class for some kind of state standardized/mandated test.

This time it was the latter.

This time she came to tell our class about a practice test we all had to take, the PSAT. The practice SAT, also known as the “we get to go sit in the school library and take a test that doesn’t mean anything, but gets us out of P.E. class” test.

She mentioned something about the test being a great opportunity for us to practice our test-taking strategies so that someday if we take the real SAT for college admission we’ll be more prepared.

First of all, test-taking strategies; I didn’t even know what that meant. As a freshman the only test taking strategy I had ever heard of was guessing “C” on multiple choice tests when you don’t know what the answer is.

Next, she promised us that if we’d just take it this one time we’d be done with it and we wouldn’t have to worry about taking another test like it until our junior or senior year when we would take the real SAT.

Needless to say, I didn’t give the PSAT much thought. I was usually pretty good at tests so I wasn’t worried.  I figured that when the time came to take the SAT I’d be just fine. And anyways, it was my freshman year; how was I supposed to remember what I learned during a practice test when I wouldn’t even take the real test till my junior or senior year?

I was prodded along with the other students into the library; I sat in my seat and I got to it. I figured that if I hurried up and finished this useless test early then I would have lots of time to doodle on the scrap paper that I brought with me.

I don’t remember a single thing about the test. I don’t remember if it was easy or hard. I don’t remember what types of questions were on it. It’s as if the Men in Black came and Will Smith personally memory swiped my brain immediately after I finished filling in the last bubble.

Maybe Will Smith did a memory swipe on me, maybe not. In all reality, I’m guessing that the real reason I don’t remember much about it is because I didn’t care. It didn’t mean anything to me. I didn’t see any reason to put any effort into the test.

By the way, the one thing I do remember is getting done early and drawing a pretty sweet picture of the school librarian as an evil cyborg.  It was awesome.

Take Responsibility

It wasn’t until long after high school that I finally realized how dumb I was. Basically, it all came down to taking personal responsibility. I didn’t take responsibility for my own education. If someone didn’t give me a compelling argument for why I should do something I didn’t do it. In high school I needed to be persuaded to make an effort and if I couldn’t see the immediate and direct benefit of something I simply didn’t participate in that thing; whatever it was.

The PSAT was no exception.

My guidance counselor didn’t adequately show me the benefits of taking the PSAT seriously, so I didn’t. She didn’t tell me that I could get a full ride scholarship based on the results of this “practice” test. She didn’t tell me I could take the test up to three times to try and get that full ride scholarship. She didn’t tell me that high scores on this test would open doors to almost any university. She didn’t tell me the results of this test could change my future in ways I couldn’t even imagine.

When I first found about the importance of that test years later I was a little irked. Well, more than a little. I was ticked. I immediately tried to blame her for my lack of knowledge (and my massive student loans).

But it’s not her fault.

She may have done a lousy job sharing the importance of test, but in all fairness I didn’t ask any questions about it either. I didn’t research it myself. I could have gone online and learned about the PSAT and the National Merit Scholarship. I could have done a lot of things, but I didn’t. As a freshman in high school I thought I didn’t need to worry about college or life after high school. I still believed that it was everyone else’s responsibility to lead me into a bright and successful future.

Shame on me.

The PSAT is NOT a Practice Test

If I had done a little research I would have learned that the PSAT was not a practice test. The “P” didn’t even stand for practice. It stood for preliminary. I would have learned that the test was logic based not content based and that if you spend a little bit of time learning how the questions are formatted you can improve your score dramatically.

In my next post I’m going to share with you the nuts and bolts of the PSAT. We are going to talk about why this test can be nearly as important as the SAT. I’m going to share with you all those things I wish I would have been told about this test when I was a freshman in high school. It’s exciting stuff and I’m eager to get into it. I really hope that you’ll benefit from what we’ll be going over during the next few posts. Wisdom is the ability to learn from the mistakes of others. Learn from my mistakes I’m laying them out there freely as a caution for you.

Until next time.

 

 

 

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